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What Dreams May Come

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: What Dreams May Come

Starring: Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Director: Vincent Ward
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genres: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Annabella Sciorra, Max von Sydow

Review by Walter Frith
1½ stars out of 4

Fresh off of his Oscar winning performance as Best Supporting Actor in 1997's 'Good Will Hunting', Robin Williams is to be commended for his efforts in continuing to find good dramatic roles. In fact, teaming up with 1996's Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor in 'Jerry Maguire', Cuba Gooding Jr., the two of them make an interesting pair on screen, if only they weren't in such a hauntingly unpleasant film as 'What Dreams May Come'. Don't get me wrong. Unpleasant films can make for good entertainment if mixed with some elements of film making redemption contained within the story but this film has about 90% of its running time locked in the ultimate nightmare about the balance between Heaven and Hell and then it pays off mildly at the end but I'm ruining nothing because I won't tell you exactly how except to say otherwise that the film suffers from over length and has a visual style that is comparable to a tour of droll and unattractive art. The acting in this film is, however, simply superb from all involved.

Williams plays a doctor with two children and a wife (Annabella Sciorra). The couple are more than husband and wife as we discover in the film, they are actually soul mates. The children die in a dreaded traffic accident and few years later, after stepping out of his vehicle to help victims of another traffic accident, Williams is killed by an oncoming vehicle. He goes directly to Heaven where he is greeted by Gooding who is the angel of explanation and a comfort in welcoming Williams to his new and presumably eternal home. But there's one problem. After being in Heaven for a while, Williams discovers that his wife committed suicide and went to Hell. Refusing to accept her fate, Williams learns that he can go to the farthest depths of the black abyss to bring her back.

Max Von Sydow plays The Tracker, a figure who takes Williams on his tour of Hell in search of his wife. Seeing Von Sydow in this film brings up memories of 'The Exorcist' as this is another look at the elements of Hell, striking terror into the hearts of people bound for that terrible place.

Director Vincent Ward has made a film that is too offbeat to be seen again and again by mainstream audiences. Once is more than enough for this film and the biggest problem the film encounters is that the screenplay by Ron Bass based on the novel by Richard Matheson, tries too hard to explain its message of the next world and eventually it over emphasizes the bearings that make you eligible for your eternal destiny, no matter what it is. Vincent Ward's vision of both Heaven and Hell are convincing but the film's explanation of what makes a person bound for one place or the other is also confusing and it tries to cover all the bases in what people have discussed in written theology over the years or discussed with each other on talk shows, religious programs or even around the water cooler at work about just WHAT EXACTLY Heaven and Hell are.

The most exhilarating look at the after life and its qualities designed to make you feel good are 1978's 'Heaven Can Wait', 'Always' (1989) and 'Ghost' (1990). These films are a pleasure to watch over and over again with a richly textured message that makes you feel positive about the after life, if there is one. Their entertainment value is simple and these three films, unlike 'What Dreams May Come', have almost no religious over tones to think about.

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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